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Predestination

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[1 of 1] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Predestination, and election" (search under Outer Life/Doctrine, Rites, Scriptures)": source "True Christian Religion": detail "Section 486 - 488"
Predestination is a birth conceived and brought forth, by the faith of the present church, because it springs from the belief of man's absolute impotence, and total want of free-determination, in spiritual things; to which may be added, as a further cause of its production, the supposition that on man's part the conversion to God is inanimate, in which he is acted upon like a stock or a stone, and that after conversion he knows not from any feeling of consciousness whether he is a stock quickened by grace or not: for it is asserted, that election is of God's mere grace, exclusive of any activity on man's part, either of the powers of nature or of reason; and that election is effected where, and whenever, God wills, thus solely according to his good pleasure: the works which follow faith as the evidences of its existence, appear to the reflecting mind like the works of the flesh, while the spirit which operates them does not make known from what origin they proceed, but produces them as faith itself is supposed to be produced, of free grace and the good pleasure of God.
 Hence it is plain, that the tenet of the present church, in regard to predestination, has sprung from those notions, like a shoot or twig from the vegetating seed; and I can venture to assert, that such a tenet must follow almost unavoidably as the natural consequence of such faith. This tenet was first broached by the Predestinarians, and afterwards espoused by Godoschalcus, then by Calvin and his followers; and lastly, it was established and confirmed by the Synod of Dort, whence it was conveyed into the church by the Supralapsarians and Infralapsarians, as the palladium of religion, or rather as the head of Gorgon or Medusa, engraved on the shield of Pallas.
 But what more pernicious doctrine could have been devised, or what more cruel notion in regard to God could have been conceived, than that any of the human race are damned by a positive predetermined decree? How cruel is a faith which maintains, that the Lord, who is love itself and mercy itself, can cause a multitude of men to be born, and devoted to hell; or that, thousands and tens of thousands are brought into the world with an inevitable curse on their heads, being in fact born devils and satans; and that in his infinite divine wisdom, he never did and never does provide some method of deliverance for those who lead good lives, and acknowledge the being of a God, that they might escape everlasting fire and punishment! Is not the Lord the Creator of all, and the Savior of all? And does not he alone guide and govern all his creatures, not desiring the death of any? What then can be believed or conceived more inhuman than that whole tribes of nations and people should under his auspices and intention be delivered up, by a positive predetermined decree, as a prey to the devil, and to glut his voracious appetite? This, however, is a birth conceived and brought forth by the faith of the present church: the faith of the New Church abhors it as a monster.
 As I could never conceive how such an extravagant doctrine as that of predestination could be devised by any Christian, much less how it could be maintained and published to the world, which nevertheless was done by the Synod of Dort, where great numbers of the clergy were collected, whose decision in its favor was afterwards carefully drawn up and diligently circulated, therefore, in order to convince me of the fact, some of the members who composed that Synod were sent to visit me [in the spirit world].
 When I saw them standing near me, I said, "How is it possible that any one, possessing any share of sound reason should conclude in favor of predestination? Must not that doctrine necessarily give rise to cruel notions respecting God and to the most shocking opinions respecting religion? Must not a man who has engraved the belief of predestination on his heart by confirmations in its favor, necessarily conceive that all church doctrines and institutions, and the Word [Bible] too, are mere vanity and foolishness? and must not his idea of God, in consequence of his predestinating so many myriads of men to hell, be that he is a tyrant?"
 As I thus spoke, they gave me a satanical look, and said, "We were once members, by appointment, of the Synod of Dort, and had at that time, and still more since that time, confirmed ourselves in many opinions regarding God, the Word, and religion, which we durst not make public; but in all our conversations and discourses from the pulpit on such subjects, we wove and twisted a web of various-colored threads, which we covered over with feathers borrowed from peacocks' wings.”
 They were then proceeding to weave a like web, when the angels, by a power given them from the Lord, closed up the externals of their minds, and opened their internals, compelling them to speak according to the dictates of their internals; and then they said, "Our faith, which we have formed from a regular series of conclusions, always was, and still is, the following:
 1. What is called the Word of Jehovah God is not really so; but it is an empty breath proceeding from the mouths of the prophets; for the Word predestinates all to heaven, and teaches that man alone is in fault if he does not walk in the ways that lead thither.
 2. There is such a thing as religion, because it is expedient there should be; but it is only like a gale of wind conveying a fragrant perfume to the nostrils of the vulgar; in consequence of which it ought to be taught by all ministers, and enforced from the Word, because the Word is generally received: we are led to embrace this opinion, because where predestination is maintained, there religion is annihilated.
 3. The laws of civil justice constitute religion: but predestination does not depend on a life conformable to those laws, but merely on God's good pleasure, as the favors of an arbitrary monarch depend on his caprice.
 4. All church doctrines and tenets ought to be exploded as groundless, and be rejected as trash, except this, There is a God.
 5. Spiritual things, so much boasted of, consist merely of ethereal matters, collected under the sun, which, in case they penetrate deeply into the mind, affect it with dizziness and stupor, and make a man a detestable monster in God's sight."
 On being questioned respecting the faith from which the doctrine of predestination is adduced, and asked whether they believed it to be spiritual, they replied, “Predestination takes place according to that faith; but when faith is given, the man is like a stock, and though he is afterwards quickened, the life he thus receives is not spiritual." After they had uttered these horrid opinions, they departed.
 This shocking faith, that God predestines men to hell, may be compared with the savageness of parents among some barbarous nations, who cast out their sucking infants and little children, and expose them in the streets; or with the savageness of some hostile troops, who cast the dead bodies of the slain into woods to be devoured by wild beasts.